Arête — Hymnal
Back when I reviewed this project's debut self-titled EP (link), I wasn't sure if there was ever going to be a follow-up to it. Arête had been seemingly dormant since that release; each member has their own black metal projects which have been putting out their own material as well. Then, out of the blue, I started seeing some Facebook updates and now, a few months later, Hymnal had been released. Reviewing the EP previously was just a happy coincidence, as this means I now have more music to listen to but the memory of the EP is still fairly fresh in my mind. The EP was a decent taster, and I was curious to see what the group could do with more time to develop their sound and song-writing.
Immediately, I noticed that Hymnal's sound is a lot more distinct than on the EP. Arête sounded fairly close to Deafest, one of the members' other bands. Not like a complete carbon copy, but there were a lot of tonal similarities in the recordings. Hymnal does a much better job of blending the key attributes of its members' other projects together. The minimalistic acoustic passages of Evergreen Refuge help break up the pacing of the record, which alternates between down-tempo atmospheric dirges and moderately paced conventional black metal passages. I am reminded of the other projects without feeling like I am listening to their own work.
The long, nearly ambient flute intro portion of "Beneath The Pond" sets the tone for the album: these are long songs, willing to take their time to establish and build a mood. The guitars eventually come into the mix, though they are very low on this track. Throughout the album, Arête drift in and out of atmospheric passages really smoothly, and interperse everything with buzzing black metal runs — notably the very old school-sounding parts in "Edifice" — and acoustic breaks. The vocals are almost exclusively distorted wretching, save for a small spoken word piece in the aforemnetioned "Edifice." There is enough variety in the Arête sound profile to keep things interesting, and the change-ups come at the right moments, feeling smooth and preventing the shifts from blast beats to plucked acoustic guitars from sounding disjointed or jarring.
Containing just 6 tracks and running ~40 minutes in length, these are lengthy songs. The title track and the closer, "Of Endings," are brief acoustic interludes, while the other 4 cuts are a minimum of 7.5 minutes apiece. If you're into atompsheric metal, then this shouldn't faze you, but if you're an impatient black metal fan then just skip this record entirely. Like the EP which preceeded it, Hymnal isn't any sort of game-changer in the atmospheric black metal scene, although it's a welcome addition to the genre nonetheless. This record clearly demonstrates improvements across the board, with more distinct production and composition, resulting in a much more mature set of recordings.
Sitting somewhere between a purely ambient album and a modern DSBM release, Hymnal is a sonically intriguing record. Arête's full-length debut is everything one could ask for: engaging, novel and an overall improvement over past matetrial. Just as the self-titled EP piqued my curiosity for future material, Hymnal retains that excitement for whatever Arête does next.
Members of Twilight Fauna, Deafest and Evergreen Refuge once again join forces under the Arête banner and drop a full-length record this time. Hymnal is 40 minutes of atmospheric black metal that seems perfect for long walks or hikes through the woods. The ambient and acoustic portions of the album evoke the serenity of the quiet wilderness, serving as perfect contrast to the raw nihilism of the black metal passages. There aren't any standout tracks per se, as the album itself is worth being listened to in full. I don't know if Hymnal would change your mind on the atmospheric metal genre, but if you're already a fan of any sort then I'd recommend giving it a chance.
Release date: November 16th, 2018
Record label: The Fear And The Void Recordings
Paul — banjo, flute, percussion, vocals
Chase — guitar, piano, vocals
Dylan — guitar, bass, percussion, vocals
Josh — drums
- Beneath The Pond
- A Plague From The Green Tongue
- You Hear Me
- Of Endings
Published: November 19th, 2018.